Minority Report: 6 predictions that came true, 15 years on

Clarisse Loughrey

We may have arrived at the 15th anniversary of Steven Spielberg's game-changing sci-fi Minority Report, but we're still a long way off from the film's dystopian 2054 setting.

That hasn't, however, stopped the film from becoming an eerie prediction of the state of modern technology; all wrapped in the tale of Washington's DC PreCrime unit, which seeks to prevent murders before they happen through the future visions of three mutated humans, known as PreCogs.

An outfit that falls to pieces when its own captain, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), is witnessed in one of these predictions killing another man. In his desperate hunt to clear his name, John uncovers that the PreCogs do not always agree. Sometimes an alternate vision of the future is produced, known as a minority report.

What's perhaps surprising to anyone re-visiting the film today, however, is how much less futuristic it actually feels in 2017. It's incredible, really, to consider how rapidly technology has advanced since Minority Report's 2002 release.

We've taken a look at some of the futuristic predictions Minority Report made that have now simply become our reality.

Driverless Cars


One of Minority Report's most memorable scenes sees John, pursued, attempt to make his escape by traversing an entire highway of glass-domed, driverless cars. Of course, not many have missed Google's various experimentations (some successful, some not-so-successful) with self-driving cars.

The automotive future Minority Report presents here seems but an inevitability.

Personalised Ads


John is seemingly followed everywhere he goes in the city by ads screaming his name, shouting for his attention. We're not quite there yet, though both Japanese Company NEC and IBM are currently developing personalised billboards.

More familiar, perhaps, is the recent slate of personalised advertising that can currently be seen on Twitter and Channel 4's streaming service 4OD; Alien: Covenant recently took advantage of both platforms to deliver creepy, personalised messages to consumers.

Voice-controlled Homes


It may have felt futuristic for John to be able to control his home purely though his voice (he turns the wall screen on with a simple command, for example), but home automation is not only commonplace these days, but is becoming a booming business.

Indeed, the highly-popular Amazon Echo and Google Home can be linked to other devices to serve as a kind of central control for the home: they can play music, they can turn lights on and off, turn up the heat, or even lock doors.

Facial and Optical Recognition


From 2011 onwards, the FBI has been involved in the development of what's been termed NGI, or Next Generation Identification, which integrates palm print, retina scans, and facial recognition to help computers search for criminal history. In the film, John attempts to evade the citywide optical recognition system through a risky black market eye transplant.

The facial recognition database is currently believed to consist of around 411.9 million images, the bulk of which are connected to people with no history of criminal activity.

Gesture-Based Computing


A lot of people came away from Minority Report with one thought: how can I do the cool computer swiping thing with my fingers? What seemed like science-fiction then has since certainly become reality: multi-touch interfaces have been developed by the likes of Microsoft, Obscura Digital, MIT, and Intel.

You can even live out your Minority Report fantasies with a gaming console now, thanks to the Kinect technology developed for the Xbox 360, and later Xbox One.

Predictive Policing


Although some of Minority Report's predictions have seen cool, new ways to control and use the technology around us, it came with a dire warning of the intrusiveness that same technology brings. Indeed, CNN reports that a study last year from organisation UpTurn found that 20 of the US' largest police forces have already engaged in predictive policing.

Just as John discovers the PreCogs aren't always consistent in their visions, police departments are swiftly learning that algorithms are hardly infallible.

"When you have machine learning algorithms making decisions, they will often make mistakes," Suresh Venkatasubramanian, a computer science professor at the University of Utah, told CNN. "Rather than trying to hide the fact they will make mistakes, you want to be very open and up front about it."

Unfortunately, the algorithms used aren't widely available so that they can be analysed as to whether they suffer from flaws or biases in their data input, as it would apparently violate their 'trade secrets'. There's no knowing yet whether predictive policing is doing more damage than good.